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Agenda: Are we at a unicorn tipping point yet?


INNOVATION is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not as a threat.

That’s the ethos which Scotland’s scale-up community embraced during the pandemic, and one that has helped build on our global reputation as a hub for investors to back exciting businesses with big ideas.

According to KPMG UK’s latest Venture Pulse figures, it’s been a strong start of the year for venture capital investment in Scotland, with £181 million raised by Scottish businesses – three times as much as the £64m raised during the same period last year.

Scotland’s scale-up community continues to demonstrate resilience and adaptability in attracting investment, with fintech, B2B-focused services and healthtech remaining top areas.

We have first-class universities, a leading finance centre and high levels of R&D, but our real power lies in the diversity of our tech hubs throughout Scotland. Just this month, plans were announced to turn Glasgow’s Met Tower, the 14-storey office building emblazoned with “People Make Glasgow” into a new £30m hub for tech businesses.

At the start of the pandemic, Mark Logan was commissioned by Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, to undertake a short-life review into how Scotland’s technology sector can contribute to the country’s economic recovery.

The review’s recommendations were primarily concerned with stimulating and accelerating the maturity of Scotland’s tech ecosystem, from the early start-up phase through to fully scaled maturity.

The preferred scenario is where the ecosystem has passed through a “tipping point” in its development. At this point, several positive effects begin to happen and as these multiply over time, the ecosystem gets increasingly stronger without further intervention being required.

Although our ecosystem is thriving, we’ve not quite reached the tipping point we are all working towards.

A good barometer to test the theory is our unicorn count – or the number of multi-billion-dollar tech businesses we can lay claim to. This isn’t the only measure of success but given the fact that Denmark has created eight unicorns with a similar-sized population compared to Scotland’s three, it’s clear we still have more work to do.

As we look ahead to the challenges facing the world recovering from the global pandemic, innovation and disruption will be central in our response and technology will have a key role to play. But Scottish firms need the right tools and support to scale.

Our search for standout UK tech innovators is now in its ninth year and has seen previous Scottish winners such as Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), Desana and Trojan Energy go on to achieve success and investment.

Whether they’re tech-enabled, tech-led or tech-driven, we’re encouraging businesses to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to take their operation to the next level.

Taking part is a simple way to make important connections and gain recognition among some of the most trusted advisors, industry leaders and influencers in Scotland as well as other major world markets through the global exposure in the finalist competition.

Applications are open for KPMG Private Enterprise Tech Innovator until May 24.

Amy Burnett is private enterprise senior manager in Scotland, KPMG UK




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